The first major starting pitching trade has been made as the Mariners and Reds announced a deal to win two-time All-Star louis castle to Seattle. In return, the Reds are bringing back four potential players – highly regarded infielders Noelvi Mars and Edwin Arroyo and right-handers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore.
Castillo was arguably the prize of this year’s rotational market. After missing a few weeks due to shoulder pain to open the year, Castillo made his season debut in early May looking like a bonafide top-of-the-rotation arm. He made 14 starts and worked 85 innings, pitching to a 2.86 ERA despite playing his home games at one of the league’s more hitter-friendly parks. Castillo has knocked out a quality of 25.8% from the opponents at a solid running speed of 8%. This season’s 47.1% grounder percentage is slightly below its 2019-21 level, but remains a few points better than the league average.
That kind of high-end production is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Castillo, who has cemented himself as one of the top athletes in recent seasons. He has achieved an ERA of less than 4.00 for the past four years, with a cumulative mark of 3.49 in 91 starts since the start of the 2019 campaign, which is 24th out of 98 qualified starters over that stretch. His strikeout rate of 26.8% ranks 23rd in that group, and he ranks 12th with a swing strike rate of 14.2% (pinch per pitch). He’s topped off the strikeout stuff with a massive 54.8% ground ball percentage that ranks in the top ten.
Few pitchers can match Castillo’s combination of gadgetry and grounders, and the 29-year-old backs it up with an impressive arsenal. He is one of the tougher throwing starters, averaging just 97 MPH on both his four seam and sinker. Castillo’s bread-and-butter secondary pitch, his change-up, is one of the game’s best offspeed offerings, and he’s had some strong results with his slider too.
Castillo will head to the front of a rotation that suddenly appears to be one of the most terrifying in the sport. The M’s Signed Reigning AL Cy Young Winner Robbie Ray to a five-year deal in the winter, and sophomore hurler Logan Gilbert has a 2.78 ERA to 21 starts. rookie George Kirbywho was generally regarded as one of the best pitchers going into the season, has a 3.50 ERA during his first 13 big league outings. Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales are not high strikeout arms, but they are more than capable back-of-the-rotation types.
Seattle will want to keep an eye on the innings totals for Gilbert and Kirby, so it would have made sense to even add a stable back-end arm. Instead, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and his staff swung bigger to bolster the 54-46 club they expect will break the franchise’s two-decade playoff drought. Should they make it into the postseason, both the front office and the fanbase would no doubt feel strongly about their ability to match the opposing team’s top three arms with Castillo, Ray and Gilbert.
The deal is about more than just the 2022 season, as Castillo will qualify for arbitration for the last time this winter. He earns $7.35 MM this year, of which about $2.75 MM has yet to be paid out. He will earn a decent raise in arbitration, but still have a sufficiently affordable salary – probably around $12MM. That’s an obvious bargain for a pitcher of his caliber, making a year and a half of his services incredibly valuable.
This is reflected in the return, which looks very strong. Marte and Arroyo were the top two prospects in the Seattle system in Baseball America’s most recent top 100, ranking 47th and 48th in the league, respectively. Marte, the most famous of the group, went into the season and was among the game’s 15 best farmhands, according to the estimates of Keith Law of Athletic, FanGraphs and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.
Marte, a 6’3″ infielder from the Dominican Republic, is widely projected as a potential plus-power hitter who can hit 25 or more home runs annually at his peak. He has only played shortstop in the minors, and while evaluators suggest he could grow from that position eventually, he is expected to stay on the infield as a possible above average third baseman. He spent the year in High-A as a 20-year-old, with an impressive .270/.360/.460 line with 15 home runs, a strong walk rate of 10.8% and a manageable strikeout rate of 21.1 % to 389 at bats. .
Arroyo, 18, was Seattle’s second round in last year’s draft. The Puerto Rico native has already increased his stock significantly in his first full professional season, with a clip of .316/.385/.514 in Low-A. He collected 13 home runs and 19 doubles and stole 21 bases. That kind of offensive performance was unexpected as the switch-hitter went into the season with more prestige for his potential plus defense at shortstop than his bat.
Stoudt recently checked in as the M’s #10 prospect, according to Baseball America. The 24-year old right-wing struggled this year in Double-A, throwing to a 5.28 ERA in 87 innings. However, he has a slightly lower than average 22% strikeout rate and a small 5.9% strikeout rate that looks tastier. BA writes that he operates his fastball in the 94-98 MPH range and has a solid set of secondary offers led by his move. The 2019 3rd round roster must be added to the 40-man roster this off-season to avoid being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He is considered a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.
Moore, not to be confused with the former Seattle starter of the same name, was a 14th-round junior college starter last year. The 22-year-old right has worked exclusively from the bullpen in Low-A, with an ERA of 1.95 to 32 1/3 innings with a ridiculous 43.6% strikeout. He generally has younger competition and has walked nearly 13% of opponents, but BA recently wrote that he has a 95-97 MPH fastball and a swing-and-miss break pitch. He will add an interesting lower level bullpen arm to the Cincinnati system.
The trade — which is the second time in four months that these two teams have had a blockbuster — will have a lot of impact. Seattle’s decision to arguably land their top two prospects for one of the sport’s top starters confirms that the M’s see themselves as a legitimate contender in the American League. It also seems to mean that they are no longer in the running for John Soto, although there is still enough top-level talent for Dipoto and his group to further bolster the roster over the next three days. Second base appears to be a possible goal area, as does the reserve catcher. However, Castillo is the splash – the impact addition designed to take a team generally strong around the diamond over the top.
As for the Reds, it’s the second (and probably most notable) trade they’ll be making this week as they dismantle the big league roster in search of future talent. Castillo’s former rotation partner Tyler Mahlea could quickly join him to be moved for a tent return (though not as strong as this one). Rental hitters like Brandon Drury and Donovan Solano won’t recoup a franchise-changing package, but there’s little reason for them not to get involved Tyler Naquin and Castillo in varying clubs.
With Castillo from the market, Mahle and A’s hurler Frankie Montas become the top two candidates for rotational trading, in addition to a handful of powerful weapons that may be available despite having control windows beyond 2023. Teams such as the Yankees, Cardinals, Rangers and Twins are known to be in the market for rotation aid . Mark Feinsand from MLB.com tweets that 12 teams were in contact with the Reds about Castillo and suggests the Yankees’ offering was close to the quality of Seattle’s. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic indicates Texas also made a strong push. In the end, the Mariners put the best offer on the table, leaving enough others for the next 72 hours to look elsewhere.
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